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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


IV. The Revolution

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XII - Nationality, Religion, and Education


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Page 9

Mixture of Peoples

The immediate result of this complete revolution in the relations of nationality was certainly far from pleasing. Italy swarmed with Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, while the provinces swarmed with Romans; sharply defined national peculiarities everywhere came into mutual contact, and were visibly worn off; it seemed as if nothing was to be left behind but the general impress of utilitarianism. What the Latin character gained in diffusion it lost in freshness; especially in Rome itself, where the middle class disappeared the soonest and most entirely, and nothing was left but the grandees and the beggars, both in like measure cosmopolitan.

Cicero assures us that about 660 the general culture in the Latin towns stood higher than in Rome; and this is confirmed by the literature of this period, whose most pleasing, healthiest, and most characteristic products, such as the national comedy and the Lucilian satire, are with greater justice described as Latin, than as Roman. That the Italian Hellenism of the lower orders was in reality nothing but a repulsive cosmopolitanism tainted at once with all the extravagances of culture and with a superficially whitewashed barbarism, is self-evident; but even in the case of the better society the fine taste of the Scipionic circle did not remain the permanent standard.

The more the mass of society began to take interest in Greek life, the more decidedly it resorted not to the classical literature, but to the most modern and frivolous productions of the Greek mind; instead of moulding the Roman character in the Greek spirit, they contented themselves with borrowing that sort of pastime which set their own intellect to work as little as possible. In this sense the Arpinate landlord Marcus Cicero, the father of the orator, said that among the Romans, just as among Syrian slaves, each was the less worth, the more he understood Greek.

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